For about 30 minutes tonight, Marquette didn't have the look of a team that had just been embarrassed on its home floor two days prior: nonchalant, lackadaisical, and generally disinterested in showing that Saturday's shocking loss to Nebraska freaking Omaha was an aberration. But then, just when you were starting to get concerned that the hole for YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles might have gone even deeper than we previously thought, MU did enough in the game's final 10 minutes to escape with a 62-57 victory over NJIT, a team that the announcing crew on Fox Sports 1 really, really wanted you to believe was plucky and upstart and scrappy and more talented than its billing ... but is actually, y'know, not.
The first half was every bit as cringeworthy as Saturday's debacle, except tonight had the added feature of Marquette being stuck in quicksand against NJIT's pedestrian defense. Coach Wojo's starting lineup of Steve Taylor, Juan Anderson, and three point guards -- Duane and Derrick Wilson plus Matt Carlino -- lasted all of two minutes (and produced zero points) before Taylor made way for Deonte Burton, and things didn't get much better from there. There were a lot of dribble handoffs thirty-five feet from the basket. That much I remember.
Meanwhile, when NJIT managed to keep its mitts on the ball (10 turnovers in the first half), the Highlanders were on fire from the floor: Damon Lynn was bombing away from Mequon, there were backcuts aplenty, and Marquette, after getting lit up by Omaha, somehow allowed NJIT to post an eFG% of 69.4% in the first half. I have no idea how this keeps happening, which isn't a big deal because I don't coach the team. (They've stopped taking my calls, weirdly.) What is concerning, of course, is that at the moment Coach Wojo can't seem to figure out what's wrong or how to go about fixing it.
The second half got better on the defensive end, as NJIT's shooting plummeted to a frosty 37.3% for the game, despite the fact that the tiny Highlanders snagged fourteen (not a typo) offensive rebounds after half time. Marquette still couldn't get untracked offensively, but thanks to a hearty helping of bonus free throws -- Marquette was in the bonus with 10:30 left in the game, and in the double-bonus about 18 seconds after that -- MU managed to scrape together enough points to avoid what would have been an inexcusable loss to a squad that just finished losing to UMass Lowell River, which may or may not be a school for fish and small amphibians.
Duane Wilson was very good tonight, finishing with 18 points thanks largely to a 9-10 showing from the charity stripe, and Juan Anderson continued his strong play with 20 points, 9 boards, and a couple of steals. Everybody else who saw action ranged from meh -- 7 points, 3 boards, 3 steals for Jajuan Johnson, 6 points and a couple of nice moves from Burton -- to eep -- 1 point from Matt Carlino, plus a goose egg from Derrick Wilson, including two of the shakiest free throw attempts you'll ever see in the final 30 seconds of the game.
BUT: a win's a win (he keeps repeating to himself) and tomorrow the team leaves for sunny Florida and the Old Spice Classic in Walt Disney World.
Until we meet at the German beer hall in EPCOT, then, this is your post-game "oh thank God" thread.